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Board of Education Updated On Iowa Core

By Staff | Jul 6, 2011

The Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education was updated on the status of the Iowa Core (formerly known as the Iowa Core Curriculum) during their regular meeting on June 20.

“We’re supposed to come and present several times a year to the board so that you can keep abreast of it,” said Principal Jay Jurrens. “The Iowa Core Curriculum provides common academic expectations for all of Iowa’s K-12 students. Its goal is to have a ‘common’ curriculum at every school in Iowa and to help take learning to a deeper level.”

Jurrens continued, “No matter where a student goes to sixth grade or seventh grade, they should be getting the same curriculum. That’s the absolute opposite of what Iowa was built on. We were built on local control. Every local district could decide what they teach and where.”

The goal of the Iowa Core is to assure that every student is learning essential skills and concepts. The Iowa Department of Education has identified six universal constructs for success in the 21st Century: Critical Thinking, Complex Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, Flexibility and Adaptability, and Productivity and Accountability.

“This shifts the focus of schools from a culture of teaching to a culture of learning,” Jurrens said. “In visiting with the foreign exchange students that have attended Emmetsburg High School, they shared how we focus on memorization. They said that where they come from, they really have to think. They aren’t given the answers; they have to come up with the answers themselves and justify how they got it. That’s a real challenge for our teachers and our students because they haven’t had to do that in the past. It’s always been ‘tell me what you what me to know, tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it for you’.”

Since the Iowa Core was first introduced, the district has been working to implement the new policy. During the 2009-2010 school year, a series of community meetings were held to gather input from the public regarding skills essential in the 21st Century. This year, teachers have began the study of the Characteristics of Effective Instruction, concentrating on Teaching for Learner Differences, and have began aligning their curriculum with the Iowa Core. They also attended several training sessions with AEA staff and met with a neighboring school district to share their experiences making the transition.

Next year the district will continue to look at the Characteristics of Effective Instruction-student-centered classrooms, teach for understanding, assessment for learning, rigorous and relevant lessons, and teach for learner differences-and begin looking at the alignment data for missing curriculum and extra curriculum.

“This is going to be hard for teachers. We’re going to ask them what they teach that isn’t on the Iowa Core Curriculum and tell them that we may not want them to teach that any more. Someone else will teach that,” Jurrens said. “We’ll also look at what they aren’t teaching that is on the Iowa Core Curriculum and add that. It’s an ongoing process.”

Jurrens added that a permanent Iowa Core Committee of community members would be established, as well.

“We’ll need continued support as we move from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom. The least effective way to teach is having a teacher stand at the head of classroom and lecture to students. The best way is to get students involved and responsible for their own learning,” said Jurrens.

“That’s what we’re supposed to be doing now [at Iowa Lakes Community College] and I find that hard. It’s difficult when you’re used to having the teacher lead the lesson,” Board member Laure Egland noted.

“It is hard,” Jurrens agreed. “You’re putting more responsibility on the student and the students have to work for it. It’s a shift that’s going to take some time.”

“How many other states have curriculums like this?” asked Egland.

“Iowa is the last state to adopt a statewide curriculum,” said Jurrens.

“Score wise, weren’t Iowa students always at the top?” Egland wondered.

“We used to be,” said Jurrens. “That’s why we never changed our curriculum, but other states started catching up with us and passing us, and we said we better do something.”

The public may view the new curriculum by grade level at: www.corecurriculum.iowa.gov.